"Nigel just plays whatever music you need me to play," Nigel John pauses for a second and Orlando Weekly can almost hear him smile over the phone, "but Kurt Rambus is a nasty groove."
Clubgoers, scenesters and local music heads of all stripes are no doubt familiar with veteran local DJ Nigel John, longtime purveyor of the finest in deep-cut hip-hop and a walking musical encyclopedia. Over roughly two decades of DJing across genres – John reminisces fondly about spinning drum & bass and sundry Warp style weirdness at the Go Lounge and Knock Knock in the late '90s, but is just as at ease spinning new wave hits at Hammered Lamb on Friday nights – he's seen (and heard) trends come and go and musical landscapes shift and crumble.
And over the last couple of years, John had been feeling a creeping dissatisfaction, a sense that a lot of electronic music was getting too corporate, sounding "the same, sounding repetitive." But instead of repeating into the soft embrace of nostalgia, John decided to throw his own hat into the ring and embrace the shock of the new.
Enter Kurt Rambus.
Kurt Rambus was born from a simple urge. "I just wanted to make some dark tracks," laughs John. "I just wanted to do some crazy shit." Early positive feedback from no less than Questlove of the Roots led to John continuing to delve further into the Kurt Rambus persona. John was also trying new things artistically across mediums, collaborating with Voci Dance and working with Doug Rhodehamel on an art installation.
This all fed into last year's self-titled cassette release through Illuminated Paths, which John characterizes as "electronic hip-hop with an industrial vibe ... a left-field, trippy beats tape." There was even a live performance or two. But John wanted to keep pushing things forward even more, and Kurt Rambus was only too happy to oblige.
This week will see the debut event for Blacksuede Sonics, an ad hoc electronic music collective led by John (as Rambus) with the able assistance of DJ Oldgod (you might know him better as DJ Cub) and Pressurewave (the synth-wielding alias of Jared Silvia). "Terribly Wrong" is meant to be a multimedia headfuck of sound and vision, a tour of the outré fringes of dance and avant-garde beats. Besides the music, there will be continuous visual projections and, John ponders, "we might be dressing a little different and wearing masks and stuff like that."
John promises deep dives and total immersion. "This is going to be stuff people don't know," he promises. "I want the music to be raw, quirky, bombastic. It's nothing you would expect."
The inspiration for this culture-clash night, combining heavier sounds with adventurous grooves, has been brewing since John DJ'ed gangster rap in between sets during April's Southern Punk Sunday at Will's Pub. The combination of sonics and setting was ideal: "I thought to myself, I need to do this at Will's. It's dirty. It's got a kind of punk vibe. It's perfect for it."
For years now John has been waiting for this chance to synthesize these seemingly disparate musical trajectories. "I got into DJ culture through going to hip-hop, disco reggae and house parties. I always liked rock and metal growing up, also," he says.
"But I saw the Melvins the first time years ago and the loudness, the sludgey dirty sound that I experienced that night stuck with me and never left. Not saying music should sound like that all the time, but I don't know a reason why it shouldn't sometimes."
Terribly Wrong will not be a regularly occuring event, which makes it even more special. And the Blacksuede Sonics group has ideas for other nights, around other themes; John hints at a soul night or an evening of Brazilian jazz, filtered through the collective's particular aesthetics. It's meant to be spontaneous and improvisatory instead of rigid, with the brief being to "explore other avenues and just be more open to music that's not on the corporate end."
One last thing, per the whims of Kurt Rambus: "No requests. Trust the DJs. We're trying to blow wigs back."